This past weekend, Oceana hosted the seventh-annual SeaChange Summer Party, a sold-out fundraiser event that raised $1.4 million for the oceans. Celebrities, ocean activists, and Oceana board members attended the event in Laguna Beach, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ted Danson, Dennis Haysbert, Laura Dern, Miranda Cosgrove, Austin Nichols, Oscar Nunez, Rachael Harris, and Jenna Ushkowitz.
A trio of Hollywood celebrities recently took their star power to Belize to help Oceana protect the largest reef in the Western hemisphere. Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”), Rashida Jones (“The Office”), and Angela Kinsey (“The Office”) traveled to coastal Belize, where they raised awareness for this delicate ocean ecosystem and promoted Oceana’s ongoing work in the country.
This Labor Day weekend, as Americans everywhere closed out the summer with barbeques and trips to the beach, Miranda Cosgrove had a different plan. She decided to save dolphins.
Taking advantage of her break from school at the University of Southern California, where she studies film, Miranda flew to Bimini Bahamas with Oceana to film a forthcoming Public Service Announcement about the need to protect dolphins. Accompanied by her mom, Miranda landed in South Bimini amidst a rain storm and braved the elements as she drove to Bimini Sands Resort in a golf cart—the main mode of transportation on this tiny island.
Yesterday, Belize’s Supreme Court declared offshore drilling contracts issued by the Government of Belize (in 2004 and 2007) null and void, providing a dramatic and potentially definitive setback to The Government of Belize and the petroleum prospecting companies issued the contracts.
The ruling, handed down by Justice Oswell Legall, was in response to a case brought by Oceana, COLA, and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. It effectively ends the Belizean government’s immediate effort to allow offshore oil drilling in the Meso American Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Audrey Matura-Shepherd Vice President of Oceana in Belize lauded the court’s decision:
“This is a great day for the people and country of Belize and its democratic process and it shows that we, as ordinary citizens, need not sit back and only complain about all the wrong decisions our Government makes, but that we can use the Judiciary system to settle them.”
The court overturned the contracts after determining that the government failed to assess the environmental impact on Belize’s ocean, as required by law, prior to issuing the contracts. The court also found that contracts were made to companies that did not demonstrate a proven ability to contribute the necessary funds, assets, machinery, equipment, tools and technical expertise to drill safely.
Oceana has campaigned against offshore drilling in Belize for more than two years. In 2011, after collecting the 20,000+ signatures required to trigger a national referendum that would allow the public to vote on whether or not to allow offshore oil drilling in Belize’s reef, the Government disqualified over 8,000 of these signatures effectively on the basis of poor penmanship - stopping the possibility of a vote. Oceana answered by quickly organizing the nation’s first ever “People’s Referendum” on February 29, 2012 in which 29,235 people (Belize’s entire population is approximately 350,000) came from all over the country to cast their votes.
In this historic vote, 96 percent of voters voted against offshore exploration and drilling.